Like any relationship in your life, open adoption is built on trust and respect. You trust that the people you chose to raise your child will love and nurture him or her, and your child's parents will trust in you to love your child and be there when he or she may need you to be.
Here are five tips to keep your open adoption relationship healthy for everybody involved.
- Acknowledge everyone's boundaries.Call the child by the name that the adoptive parents have given him or her, not the one you may have wanted, and call yourself by your first name, or the "title" you discussed with the adoptive parents. This way, it'll be clear for your child who plays what role in their life. If need be, be open and honest with the adoptive family about how contact and visits feel for you. Your feelings may change over time and that's perfectly okay. If you need a break or some time to grieve, speak up.
- Respect the adoptive parents' role. Like all parents, adoptive parents will be the ones making decisions for their child after placement. No matter what you think about their parenting style, don't try and insert your own opinions or how you would handle something. Let them parent like you trusted in them to do when you chose them. That being said, it's okay to ask how they're doing and offer help or support when it's requested, but be sure to respect the roles and boundaries that were discussed during the adoption planning process.
- Keep in contact. Ask if it's a good time to talk when you call; everybody is busy and just like you have your own life, your child's parents do, too! Don't take this personally, having a newborn can be time consuming! When you try to plan, offer adoptive parents a few times to call when you will be available so you don't have to play phone tag.
- Plan visits in advance. Try not to be late to any planned visits and call ahead if you're going to be. Decide with your child's parents how long you should stick around that day; while you may not want your time to be too short, you also don't want to overstimulate or wear out your child. Choose a place to visit that is comfortable for everyone, such as a park or restaurant where you can do something structured. At the end of the visit, make a point to schedule the next time you'll be in touch or want to visit so that everyone has the same expectations.
- Keep appropriateness in mind. If you are unsure about how to proceed in your relationship with the adoptive family, be open and honest with your child's parents about these feelings. If you need help with how to navigate that conversation, please call your counselor or The Cradle's Center for Lifelong Adoption Support for consultation. Though it may go without being said, do not drink alcohol or use drugs prior to a visit. If there is an out of the ordinary activity that you would like to do with the child, ask his or her parents first to make sure they're okay with it.
Use The Cradle as a resource if you are experiencing difficulties in your open adoption relationship. If you feel contact with the adoptive family is not going as you expected, talk with your counselor. Often, birthparents and adoptive parents simply misunderstand each others' expectations, and genuinely want to be a part of each others' lives.